Eastern Arrivals in Post-Glacial Lapland: The Sujala Site 10 000 Cal BP

By Rankama, Tuija; Kankaanpaa, Jarmo | Antiquity, December 2008 | Go to article overview
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Eastern Arrivals in Post-Glacial Lapland: The Sujala Site 10 000 Cal BP


Rankama, Tuija, Kankaanpaa, Jarmo, Antiquity


Introduction

In the 1920s, Norwegian geologist Anders Nummedal discovered several coastal sites representing a chipped-stone industry in Finnmark, northern Norway. Dubbing this Stone Age culture 'Komsa' after a small fell near Alta, Nummedal, like several of his contemporaries, thought the finds were Palaeolithic in nature (Boe & Nummedal 1936). After the Second World War, the scenario of a Palaeolithic relict population 'overwintering' the last ice age was replaced by ideas of a very early post-glacial immigration. Some authors proposed ah origin in the east or south-east, in the Kola Peninsula, Finland, northern Russia, or even northern Germany via the Baltic States and Finland (Luho 1956; Meinander 1984), while others looked west to the Fosna culture of south-western Norway (Freundt 1968; Odner 1966). Unfortunately, however, there were no trails of connecting finds in either direction: when first occupied, the Komsa area iri northernmost Norway appeared to have been flanked east and west by vast tracts of uninhabited country while the south was still guarded by a massive continental glacier.

More recent finds from central Norway, combined with a number of typological affinities, have established the roots of Komsa in the Fosna culture (e.g. Sandmo 1986; Bjerck 1994; Gryddand 2005), which, for irs part, has been connected with the north German Late Palaeolithic Ahrensburg culture (Fuglestvedt 1999). As for the eastern route, recent research has shown that the post-Swiderian complex of the eastern Baltic and northern Russia spread very early to southern Finland (Takala 2004), but though the route north through Russian Karelia or possibly across the White Sea Narrows to the Kola Peninsula may have been viable already in the early Mesolithic, no archaeological evidence had been found in these areas to substantiate a possible early migration to the north. Dated sites in Finnish Lapland indicate that the vanguard of the later quartz-using Finnish Mesolithic arrived in northern Finnish Lapland c. 8400 BP, though two somewhat anomalous dates from Inari go back as far as c. 8800 BP (uncalibrated; Carpelan 2004: 21ff.). However, Finnish and Norwegian archaeologists have not been completely unanimous over the origin of the inland population of Finnmark, the former tending to favour a southern (inland) origin and the latter a northern (coastal) one. It is perhaps not totally coincidental that these patterns parallel the modes of the historical colonisation of the north by the two respective nations themselves. Be this as it may, the view that the population of Finnmark from the Komsa culture onwards was of purely Western parentage has become the standard position particularly in Norway (but see Grydeland 2000: 45).

Originally, the 'Komsa Period' was equivalent to the whole Mesolithic of Finnmark. In 1993 and in a follow-up paper in 1999, Peter Woodman divided the rather heterogeneous mass of sites into three chronological groups: the Preboreal Komsa Phase (10 000-8500 BP), the Boreal and Early Atlantic Saeleneshogda Phase (8500 BP onwards), and the Atlantic Trapeze Phase (dates originally undefined). A slightly modified version of this chronology, with the units redesignated Phases I (10000-9000 BP), II (9000-7500/7000 BP) and III (7500/7000-5600 BP; all in uncalibrated radiocarbon years), has been suggested by Norwegian archaeologist Bjornar Olsen (1994). What we are primarily concerned with here are phases I (Woodman's Komsa Phase, 10 000-9000 BP) and II (Woodman's Saeleneshogda Phase, 9000-7500/7000 BP).

According to Woodman, the Komsa Phase (Olsen's Phase I) is characterised by tanged and related points, large backed pieces, flake axes, crude scrapers and burins, the Saeleneshogda Phase (Olsen's Phase II) by bladelets, microcores, large broad blades and small carefully made flake scrapers, and the Trapeze Phase (Olsen's Phase III) by trapezes, scrapers and expedient technology using bipolar reduction (Woodman 1999: 301).

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